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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Philippians 1:21–30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (NRSV)

In Paul’s words, I hear the temptation to retreat from the problems of the world and be with God and choose an individually faith-centered life. This is in contrast to a community faith-centered life that gets real about the problems of the world and collectively works toward transformation. Paul wants to see the Philippians “striving side-by-side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and . . . [not] intimidated by [their] opponents.”

I can relate to the temptation to just focus on my own family, my own happiness, and my own needs with God. There are a lot of forms of Christianity that do just that. Yet we see that Paul teaches us that faith in the gospel is much more. It requires us to know the world around us, to understand our “opponents” (a.k.a. inequality, suffering, hate, etc.). Paul speaks to a community, and this helps me see how we’re in this whole faith thing together. When one of us is overwhelmed and in need, we care for each other to keep going and live as Christ’s body in the world. Paul does this whole flesh vs. God thing, and I really resist that dichotomy. As we choose to engage with the world, we see the Holy Spirit present, moving, dancing, infiltrating the spaces in need of God’s love. Like a friend moving toward another’s profound grief and pain that is so uncomfortable and heartbreaking to experience, we can meet God there, meet the Holy Spirit, and see that retreating away from community isn’t always the way to come closest to God.

Holy Spirit, pour out your courage and love and hope in us as we struggle carrying the problems of the world. Help us find you in the suffering we see and experience. We know you’re there. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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